Courting support: volunteers needed to guide witnesses and victims through legal process

SUPPORTING VICTIMS AND WITNESSES: Pieta Thornton and Jenny Templeman from the Victims and Witnesses of Crime Court Support visited Orange police and legal representatives this week to update them about their court support work. Photo: STEVE GOSCH 0627support

SUPPORTING VICTIMS AND WITNESSES: Pieta Thornton and Jenny Templeman from the Victims and Witnesses of Crime Court Support visited Orange police and legal representatives this week to update them about their court support work. Photo: STEVE GOSCH 0627support

THEY keep a very low profile and most people don’t even know they are there.

But every week at Orange Court House, volunteers support witnesses and victims of crime by helping them navigate what can be a stressful process.

This week, representatives of Victims and Witnesses Of Crime Court Support (VWCCS) visited Orange to speak with police officers and police prosecutor Andy Bobin to update them on the work of the volunteers in the court system.

“Police prosecutors and the courts are under enormous pressure with their workloads, so we are in Orange to try and increase our volunteer base,” VWCCS president Pieta Thornton OAM said.

Orange is only one of three centres in NSW providing court support services, along with The Downing Centre in  Sydney and Parramatta Court House.

Ms Thornton said walking into a court house for the first time can be confronting for witnesses and victims.

“Unfortunately our courts are not all that well designed and the victims or witnesses can well find themselves sitting in the same room as the perpetrators,” she said.

However, Ms Thornton said Orange was fortunate to have a private room that was provided for the support service.

“We are fortunate here in Orange as that usually isn’t the case in many places,” she said.

Ms Thornton said as well as explaining the court process to their clients and informing victims and witnesses of their rights, they explain legal terminology and accompany victims to all their conferences.

“People don’t always come away from the court with the outcome they want, but the important thing is they have an opportunity to have a voice,” she said.

The VWCCS is looking to increase its volunteer base in Orange and is looking for expressions of interest from potential volunteers.

Prospective volunteers will have to undergo training sessions and need to be available during business hours.

For more information contact 9287 7671, email info@vwccs.org.au or visit the website www.vwccs.org.au.

janice.harris@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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